Factors That Can Put You at Greater Risk of Developing a Hernia

There’s no crystal ball when it comes to your health, but there are some important red flags that you should be aware of. While many health conditions come on with no warning, some develop on the heels of certain conditions or behaviors that make you more vulnerable, and both are true of hernias.

At our practice, board-certified surgeon Dr. Gabriel Akopian believes that education is key when it comes to safeguarding the long-term health of our patients in Pasadena, California. With that in mind, we’ve pulled together a quick look at hernias and whether you may be more at risk.

Hernias 101

A hernia is catchall name for a condition in which an organ or tissue pushes through an opening, protruding into an area where it doesn’t belong. There are many types of hernias, including:

Inguinal hernia

This type of hernia is far and away the most common and occurs when tissue, usually a segment of your intestine, pushes through a weak spot in your abdominal muscles. While not usually dangerous, an inguinal hernia can cause considerable discomfort.

Incisional hernia

If you’ve had surgery in your abdominal or pelvic region, the resulting scar provides an opportunity — a weak spot — where tissue can push through.

Femoral hernia

This condition typically strikes older women (though it’s not very common) and develops when a section of tissue pushes into the femoral canal.

Umbilical hernia

This hernia is most often found in newborn babies, though adults can develop the condition, and it’s the result of tissue pushing through the muscle around the bellybutton.

There are other types of hernias, but these represent the lion’s share of the cases, with about 75% of hernias developing in the groin.

The uncontrollable risk factors

In many cases, hernias develop for no known reason, making it difficult to predict whether you may be at risk. That being said, several factors may make you more susceptible.

First, it’s worth noting that men are eight times more likely to develop an inguinal hernia than women. But women are by no means immune, especially pregnant women who are more vulnerable to hernias as the growing fetus strains and weakens their abdominal muscles.

Age can also play a role — in either direction. With umbilical hernias, newborn babies are more at risk, while groin hernias develop more often in older people as their abdominal muscles weaken with age.

And as we discussed regarding incisional hernias, if you’ve had surgery in your abdominal area, including correcting a previous hernia, you’re more at risk for developing the breach.

Of course, these risk factors aren’t terribly useful in helping you avoid a hernia since there’s little you can do about your gender, your age, or your previous medical history. But they do provide you with some useful foreknowledge that may make you more aware of the potential of a hernia, allowing you to catch it early on.

Taking charge

Outside of the risk factors above, hernias can also develop on the heels of any condition that strains your abdomen or groin. For example, if you suffer from chronic constipation, the extra strain you place on your abdominal muscles leaves you vulnerable to the development of a hernia.

As well, if you’re a smoker or you have an illness that causes a chronic cough, this, too, has been linked directly to the formation of hernias. And if you fall into any of the risk categories — say, you’re an older male — you should be especially mindful.

This goes, as well, for lifting heavy objects. If you’ve heard the expression about “giving yourself a hernia,” it’s often used when you’re lifting something you shouldn’t.

If you’re concerned about developing a hernia, or you suspect you may already have one, please give us a call or use the online booking tool to set up an appointment.

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